War Paint (Part 7): Liberty Leading the People

Part 7 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

La Liberté guidant le peuple is a seminal piece of art by French Romanticist Eugène Delacroix. Finished in 1830, after the July Revolution, which saw the toppling and exile of monarch King Charles X of France. It has become a symbol of the Republic, and the central figure, Marianne, bearing the tricolor flag and a Phrygian cap, is a timeless figure, the same represented by the Statue of Liberty.

Eugène Delacroix, self-portrait circa 1837.

Eugène Delacroix, self-portrait circa 1837.

Charles X was the last of the senior branch of Bourbon monarchs to sit on the French throne and was a younger brother of the decapitated Louis XVI. The July Revolution kicked off on July 27, 1830, a day after police raided a press office to seize contraband newspapers during a period of heightened tension. Three days of fighting ensued with the end result being a constitutional monarchy. Charles was replaced by Louis Phillipe I, who would himself be forced from power in the Revolution of 1848 (the French love a good revolt). One could spend their entire life thinking that the French Revolution was the end of monarchs in France, but the nation had alternating periods of republic and monarchy until the fall of Napoleon III in 1870.

Delacroix was born in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, just outside of Paris, in 1798. He is one of the leading figures in the French Romantic movement with this particular work being his most recognizable. He was well-traveled, having visited England, Spain and North Africa among other places. He lived a very private life of which little is known. He left no heirs when he died in Paris in 1863.

The painting hangs in the Louvre.

(Note: Some of this post is taken from a longer post I did on the painting some months back. Check it out here.)


10 thoughts on “War Paint (Part 7): Liberty Leading the People

  1. Always one of my favourite paintings!

    • Same here. Though while looking this painting up for this post I was confused to see The Raft of the Medusa was not Delacroix. I had always thought it was one of his. I’m even learning stuff I wasn’t trying to while writing this blog!!!

  2. Jenny says:

    As you probably know, in more recent times Marianne has been modeled after Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, among others. A new model is elected regularly by the mayors of French cities. Kind of funny!

    • I didn’t know that. I can only imagine French mayors to be a lecherous group, making the election of Bardot completely feasible. Am I stereotyping?

      • Jenny says:

        Yeah, probably, but it’s a tempting stereotype. I’m sure there must be female mayors, progressive mayors, etc., etc., but I so easily picture an old-style politician saying “Ooh la la!”

      • We played a game when we were on the beach in France. The water was quite cold and it was a small cove. When people were going to enter the water, you close your eyes and try to guess if the sounds they made were French people having sex, or Frenchies entering the water. Quite entertaining! Oh, ooh…ooh la la

  3. jarretr says:

    Great post. This is among my top 5 favorite pieces of historical painting ever. I’ve always loved that “Liberty” is depicted as female. It’s a significant statement that rejects patriarchy and promotes the (idealized) triumph of true republicanism,

  4. Mélanie says:

    excellent post… liberté, égalité, fraternité! vive la France et vive la République! 🙂 friendly thoughts from Toulouse, France, “old Europe”! 🙂 cheers, Mélanie

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